While the Vineyard Area Citizens case may have made headlines and caused commotion among water supply planners and project proponents, the Los Angeles Superior
Court recently faced an important question about the way in which a Water Supply Assessment (WSA) prepared under Senate Bill 610 (SB 610) may be challenged. In California Water Impact Network v. Newhall County Water District (CWIN v. Newhall), the court considered a challenge to the legal adequacy of a WSA prepared by the Newhall County Water District. The issue before the court was whether project opponents can directly challenge a WSA, in addition to challenging the CEQA document that relies upon the WSA, which would effectively give opponents two bites at the
apple. In a blow to the project opponents, the court agreed with the District’s argument that the challenge, brought by the California Water Impact Network (C-WIN), was inappropriate because a WSA is prepared as a part of the CEQA process and, thus, must be challenged within the CEQA
Preparation of a WSA is a relatively recent requirement. As water supply issues have become more controversial, environmental organizations have begun to view WSAs as useful tools for attacking large projects. Although the trial court decision in C-WIN v. Newhall does not create binding precedent, if the District’s arguments hold up on appeal the case would restrict the way in which
project opponents can challenge WSAs and reduce the likelihood of a project being challenged in multiple lawsuits.
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